The Premier League season ended on Sunday. On the last day of the 2011-12 season, I needed oxygen, a Sergio Aguero mask, and a vacation. It was all last-second drama, intra-city power shifts, and brave new worlds. This season? Not so much. United had the league wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, Wigan went down the trapdoor to the championship (joining the already relegated QPR and Reading) when it lost to Arsenal last week, and the only real unanswered question going into the final day of league play was which North London club would nab the final Champions League position. That "prize" went to Arsenal, just like it always does.
Honestly, I feel like Watford's promotion playoff semifinal match against Leicester from mid-May soaked up all the drama in the known universe. So maybe it's just as well. I don't know if the tectonic plates could have handled any more scenes.
In case you were out dressed up as Grimace to serve as a decoy for a hamburger-related heist, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Denver Nuggets stayed hot, winning their 12th straight at home, 107-92, over the Los Angeles Clippers. Denver pulled away late, despite the mind games of Blake Griffin. Nuggets forward Andre Iguodala said after the game, "Blake kept calling me the Iguanodon, which I get, but he also kept calling [Nuggets center] Kosta Koufos the Koufosaurus. I don't even think that's a real dinosaur." When asked what he was up to, Griffin responded, "I just think dinosaurs are cool," before jutting out his mouthguard and winking.
The Pittsburgh Penguins stormed back from a three-goal deficit to beat the Flyers in Philadelphia, 5-4. I'm sorry, I mean the city formerly known as Philadelphia, which is now officially Philahellphia, as the local government has been seized by enraged Flyers fans. Martial law currently reigns in the city, with sober rationality the only official crime on the books. Fortunately, this has caused nothing to change for the citizens of Philahellphia in the aftermath of this rare American coup d'etat.
Enough talk about the dire states of Arsenal and Liverpool, it's time to get #Positive. In this week's pod, the Men in Blazers revel in the otherworldly form of Tottenham's Gareth Bale as well as the first-ever trophy for Swansea.
More trumpets! A new season of Major League Soccer is upon us! Just as two former MLS mainstays, Brek Shea and Kei Kamara, made an impact for Stoke and Norwich last weekend, it's now time for the league's 18th year. To mark the occasion, Michael and Roger celebrate the MLS-ification of the EPL by welcoming GBOP (Great Bro' of the Pod) Kyle Beckerman for an in-studio visit to the Crap Part of Soho. The Real Salt Lake veteran discusses his love of Ping-Pong, how the league has grown since he was just a dreadlock-less lad, and his preference for grass. A true American hero.
Gareth Bale. I can't remember the last time I saw so many grown men terrified of one human being. I've been traveling through Europe during the NFL downtime and made my way to Upton Park on Monday night for a match between two London rivals, West Ham and Tottenham; but the real reason I went was to see Bale. To silence the little nagging voice in my head that started speaking up after I realized I'd be in town for the fixture. "This is your chance to see somebody you're going to regret not seeing 40 years from now." I hope that little nagging voice had some action on some Bale props for this game.
The story of the Premier League this weekend, told in five goals. Get some.
It says a lot about this season of the Premier League when the goal that may very well have delivered the title to Manchester United (it's February, mind you), was followed by a celebration in which the goal-scorer pretended to wipe his own ass. It's a bittersweet symphony, this life.
The story of the Premier League over the holiday season, told in five goals. Get some.
All happy Arsenal players are the same. All unhappy Arsenal players are unhappy in their own way. Over the years, players have left the North London club due to matters pertaining to the head (Robin van Persie knew he needed to leave the Emirates to win trophies), the heart (Cesc Fábregas ultimately wanted to return to his boyhood club, Barcelona), and the wallet (Samir Nasri makes more as a bit player for Manchester City than as the focal point of Arsenal). The club's latest contract fiasco is interesting, though. It's about identity, both of the player, Theo Walcott (and how he perceives himself), and of the club itself.
The international break can be a difficult time for star players from smaller nations. Footballers who are accustomed to domestic glory suddenly find themselves thrust into squads with far smaller ambitions. The contrast can be jarring, as can the transition from being one star among many to the solitary hero tasked by an expectant nation with leading your talentless team to improbable victories. This is something to which Tottenham’s Gareth Bale is having to grow accustomed whenever he plays for Wales, as seen in the buildup to last week’s World Cup qualifier with Croatia, in which the pre-match spotlight fell squarely on his shoulders. This was largely because Wales has no realistic chance of qualifying for the World Cup, and their main ambition for the qualifying campaign is to finish higher than Scotland, whom Bale had single-handedly defeated the week before, so by the time the Welsh squad landed in Zagreb, the pundits quickly dispensed with the small talk and moved on to the pressing business of trying to predict Gareth Bale’s future.
Above is a video of Liverpool's Charlie Adam tackling Tottenham's Gareth Bale. It happened at a friendly in Baltimore over the weekend (0-0 draw) (you're welcome, Baltimore). After the match the Spurs winger called Adam "a bit of a coward." This is the second time that Adam has tried some amateur podiatry on Bale. Back in 2011, Adam — then playing for Blackpool — sidelined Bale for several months after injuring his ankle.
At a pregame press conference on Monday afternoon at the Home Depot Center, Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham Hotspur’s new manager, stepped onto the stage with an air of authority and control. Tension filled the room. Reporters, who only moments before had been joking about the sarcastic questions they might ask the manager, fell silent. AVB settled into his seat behind the microphone, leaned forward, and with his steel-blue eyes scanned the crowd of reporters.